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Inbox: Issue 852

Why doesn’t every single school that teaches Torah in their daled amos, have a zero-tolerance policy for bullying?
It’s About Caring [Stand Up and Be Counted / Issues 851]

As an American living in Eretz Yisrael for almost 15 years, I nodded in recognition as I read the article about Chaim V’Chessed. Like most (all?) Anglos living here, we’ve benefited immeasurably from Chaim V’Chessed’s services — the bureaucratic assistance, the therapy referrals, the online articles that serve as a Dummies’ Guide to Surviving Misrad Hapnim. But two years ago, when my son was born with a condition that would necessitate surgery during his infancy, I gained new appreciation for what they do.

After being discharged from the hospital, one of the first calls I made was to Chaim V’Chessed, so that I could find out how to get my baby onto Bituach Leumi, the national insurance, as quickly as possible (a typically time-consuming process for non-citizens), to ensure that he’d be covered if he needed the surgery immediately or if any complications arose. A helpful CVC rep walked me through the process, giving me tips on how to efficiently navigate the complex Bituch Leumi–US embassy maze.

Then, a couple of days later, I was back on the phone, asking Chaim V’Chessed to help expedite an important appointment I was told I’d need to wait months for. And a few days after that, I found myself in the ER, with my two-week old baby. On Erev Pesach. While his Bituach Leumi application was still being processed. Gulp.

I called Chaim V’Chessed and hesitantly pressed 1 to leave an emergency message after hearing that they were closed. (It was just four hours before the Seder.) Within half an hour, on what must be the busiest day of the frum year, I received a call back offering me guidance — and, more crucially, reassurance.

But it wasn’t that call that left me with such profound appreciation for CVC’s work, nor was it all of my follow-up calls in which they helped me navigate bills and expedite appointments. It was the call that came a few days later, on Chol Hamoed Pesach, when a rep called me to ask how my baby was doing — even though Chaim V’Chessed was closed. And I realized — for Chaim V’Chessed, it’s not about advocacy or information. It’s about caring.

With much appreciation,

R. T.

Just Ask [Outlook / Issue 851]

Yonoson Rosenblum’s column “Worship of Science” raises some interesting points, such as our inability as a society to handle ambiguity and a stark look at the wide-ranging costs of lockdowns. On the whole, however, the article lacks the balance and cold-eyed evaluation of the facts that the author claims to be championing. The condemnation of scientific organizations for changing recommendations during a once-in-a-century pandemic based on emerging evidence would seem a scientific victory, not a shortcoming.

I have yet to meet a physician who claims that “only randomized controlled trials are valid,” although there is ample reason why RCTs remain the gold standard of evidence-based medicine. Not to mention the author’s writing as fact that COVID-19 escaped from a lab or that “It is no exaggeration that tens of thousands of lives might have been lost because Dr. Fauci dismissed as worthless all early interventions,” — claims that at best remain undecided and at worst are simply spurious.

As a physician, my message to readers of this article or my letter would be “please just ask us.” If your doctor won’t prescribe hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19, please ask why. If a recommendation that was true earlier in the pandemic has changed, please ask why. And most importantly, if you have any questions about the COVID-19 vaccines available, please ask.

The public deserves an opportunity to have their vaccine questions heard and answered. That’s why 45 heimish organizations partnered together to host a livestream Q&A with Dr. Peter Marks from the FDA. And that’s why JOWMA (Jewish Orthodox Women’s Medical Association) has scheduled a second event for April 11 specifically geared toward women with experts such as Drs. Naor Bar Zeev, Ellie Carmody Stone, and Richard Grazi and Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, PhD.

This past year has been confusing and unsettling in so many ways. But instead of throwing in the towel on modern medicine or assuming nefarious intent, all I ask is that you ask us first. Hear what we have to offer and then draw your own conclusions.

Sarah Dienstag Becker, MD

Chair, COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force


Palm of His Hand [Dream It, Do It / Issue 851]

Thank you for your wonderful article on Rabbi Eli Teitelbaum. He was my rebbi, and I too would like to share some of my experiences with this legend.

Not only was he my fourth-grade rebbI at Torah Temimah, but in sixth and seventh grade, as I was struggling with both math and science, I would go to the basement of his home, just before and during its transformation into a recording studio, for tutoring. One detail that the article on Rebbi left out was that he was also the science teacher at Torah Temimah. He even had a darkroom so we could be taught how to develop pictures!

When I was in his fourth-grade class, one of the highlights of his classes was when Rebbi would take out his guitar and tell us stories about a character named Moshe Segal. Moshe Segal was there with Moshe Rabbeinu at the Yam Suf. Moshe Segal would be helping the Maccabees. I even remember when he sang “And Moshe Segal was in the torture chamber,” when he was captured and miraculously escaped the Spanish Inquisition.

Almost 30 years later, I was at my first Torah Umesorah convention, and there was Rebbi, with that same warm and caring smile. Naturally, I went over, said shalom aleichem, and after catching up on almost 30 years, he told me about a great ploy he had used to establish discipline in a challenging situation.

“Recently, I did a favor for a close friend,” he said. “I was his substitute rebbi for a week. He told me, ‘Good luck trying to teach them anything, they are so not interested in learning.’ Naturally, I took that as a challenge.

“I arrived at the school about 15 minutes early and went straight to the office. I asked the secretary for the class file for the class I was teaching, and studied the files of five students. Then I entered the classroom and told the class which sugya I was hoping to teach them over the course of the week.

“I noticed the way the students looked at each other and knew what I had to do. I asked the class if anyone ever heard of palm reading. They looked at me with new interest as I said, ‘Well, I know how to read palms — and I’ll prove it.’

“I pulled out the class roster and called on the first boy whose personal info I had memorized just before class. The boy approached the desk and I said, ‘Put your palm in my hand.’ I proceeded to stare at it and then began telling him different personal details about his family. The boy was in shock! The rest of the class couldn’t believe what they just saw.

“ ‘Do me, do me,’ everyone called out. ‘If you all agree to sit quietly and pay attention to the lesson I prepared, I will read a few more palms now and a few more after recess,’ I said. Naturally they all listened and I was able to teach the class. During recess, while the class was outside with a teacher who had recess duty, I was in the office memorizing more student profiles. Needless to say, I had no problem teaching that class.”

Rebbi told me, “I literally had them eating out of the palm of my hand!”

One thing is clear. Rebbi would always come up with a unique and creative way to teach each individual class he encountered. That is what made him everyone’s favorite rebbi. Baruch Hashem I was given the zechus of being Rebbi’s talmid.

Yehi zichro baruch.

A. Mordechai Cohen, Atlanta, GA

He Never Said No [Dream It, Do It / Issue 851]

I have just read every single word of the tribute to Rabbi Eli Teitelbaum ztz”l. There was not one word of exaggeration!

Through my 30-plus years of work for JEP and Agudath Israel of America, I developed a nickname for him: “Eli-never-says-no-to-a-mitzvah Teitelbaum.”

Before the advent of video, he taught me how to produce multiple-tray slide shows; at first he would take the photos/slides for me, until he convinced the Agudah to purchase a Nikon camera with a macro lens, enabling me to do so myself.

Same story when we entered the video age. He was always there for us.

I remember how proud he was when he first started Dial-a-Daf, pointing to the four Wollensak reel-to-reel tape recorders, exclaiming, “Look, Yosef Chaim, four people can call in and listen at the same time!” Now it’s probably 40,000.

His basement, with tons of Agudah Convention videos and slides, was always open to us. He once told my brother, Dovid Nachman (aka Ding), where to find the key if he came late at night and the door was locked.

In 1973, with the recording of the first JEP record, he accompanied the novice JEP chevreh to the recording studio, just in case we would need his expertise. And the Eretz Yisrael photo on the cover of JEP 4 was an Eli Teitelbaum original.

Only Hashem knows why he was taken away so early. He is sorely missed.

Rabbi Yosef C. Golding

King of the Jewish Orchestra [Standing Ovation / Issue 851]

While Ding states that “back in the day” there were three Jewish orchestras, going back a few more days would lead him to the Joe King Orchestra.

Perhaps the original shomer Shabbos band leader, American-born Joe and his orchestra were a staple at the Gold Manor in 1940’s Williamsburg post World War II. Joe was recommended to the Gold Manor by a different bandleader, who declined the request by the caterer to play at frum weddings there, feeling that he could not supply the appropriate music. Joe, an accomplished pianist and accordionist, promptly took on the task of forming the first group of first-generation American musicians who could supply the need. In fact, Joe later played at my own parents’ wedding at that venue on Lag B’omer 1960. When we watch my parents’ wedding movies (8mm film) Joe can be seen playing the accordion in the middle of the dancing circle.

According to Peter Sokolow (a musician who played with some of the orchestras that Ding mentioned) in the chapter about music in the book Jews of Brooklyn, Chizik Epstein and Harry “Rudi” Tepel got their start playing in Joe’s orchestra and eventually formed their own orchestras — the Epstein Brothers’ Orchestra and the Rudi Tepel Orchestra.

Joe and his orchestra can also be found as the musical accompaniment on many of the earliest frum phonograph recordings, including some of the Chabad Nichoach albums.

Joe relocated from Williamsburg to Kew Gardens Hills in the mid 1950s, becoming one of the pioneers to move to the then-fledgling frum community. He never severed his Williamsburg roots and remained the last member of the Young Israel of Williamsburg on Willoughby Avenue (not to be confused with the Young Israel of Brooklyn on Bedford Avenue).

I was privileged to know Joe, as his grandson was one of my best friends growing up. I still recall him singing zemiros when I would join my friend and his family for Shabbos meals. Joe continued playing well into the 1970s, even releasing a wedding album with his orchestra at that time.

Please keep taking us back to those days!

Aharon Friedler, Far Rockaway, NY

What Pictures Told Me [Shidduch Photos / Issue 850]

Although the conversation of shidduch photos seems to have been exhausted by many (of the same) opinions, I thought I would present a different viewpoint.

As a mother of boys (and girls, as well), I have been involved in the shidduch scene many times. Although I never asked a shadchan for a picture, I did, at times, ask my daughters or daughters-in-law if they had an “unofficial” photo of the girl in question.

I never showed said photo to my sons. I did, however, often find the photo to present information to me that I would not have received otherwise. One lovely girl, for example, received rave reviews from everyone I asked about her. When I received a picture of her, I noticed that she was wearing red, spiky, very high heels. Now, there is nothing wrong with those shoes, but this would definitely not be the right shidduch for this son.

Another young lady who also had a résumé that sounded appropriate was wearing glittery eye makeup that was certainly pretty, but again, would not have been a shidduch for this particular son.

On the other hand, another young lady (who eventually became my daughter-in-law) was, in a very informal photo, holding a younger sibling with a giant warm smile on her face. I was immediately taken with her chein, and felt that this was a real possibility.

No, outward appearances are not the key to happiness in a marriage. Of course it is true that pictures don’t tell the inner, more important story. But it is also true that the way a girl presents herself in public reflects in some way how she sees herself and how she wants others to see her. It can be an important piece of the puzzle.


Check, Then Meet [Shidduch Photos / Issue 850]

I was zocheh to be a talmid of the Manchester Rosh Yeshivah, Rav Yehuda Zev Segal ztz”l. The Rosh Yeshiva gave me a letter he received from Rav Elchonon Wasserman Hy”d, written in the name of the Chofetz Chaim, regarding shidduchim. This letter appears in The Shidduch Manual, recently published. The handbook has the haskamah of Rav Yitzchok Scheiner ztz”l, rosh yeshivas Kamenitz and yibadel l’chayim tovim Rav Mattisyahu Salomon shlita, the mashgiach of BMG, Yeshiva.

The Chofetz Chaim, Rav Elchonon Wasserman, and the Manchester Rosh Yeshivah all taught us how one should engage (excuse the pun) in the shidduch process. The boy and the girl should not meet until all inquiries have been made, all information received, and all financial matters concluded.

I was prompted to write this letter when I read a recent letter sent to Mishpacha, and printed in the 12 Adar, 5781 edition that stated that “after half a dozen dates, my father decided he’d better check out her father….”

As above, all inquiries need to be completed before they meet the first time. One needs to be sure this is a tzugepaste shidduch before the boy and the girl are allowed to spend time together. This is the hashkafah taught by our gedolim and spares them from unnecessary heartache and agmas nefesh.

May all the announcements made 40 days before each boy and girl was formed come to fruition without agmas nefesh (see Tosafos Sotah, daf beis).

Rabbi Nochum Mordechai Halpern, Manchester, UK

Stop It When They’re Young [Inbox / Issue 850]

In reference to the LCSW who wondered why all the chassan and kallah classes weren’t preparing our children to have a proper relationship, I’d like to suggest that we start in kindergarten.

Baruch Hashem, we have beautiful Jewish communities all over the world, doing amazing things. However, when it comes to bad middos — excluding kids during recess, bullying and the like — too many people turn a blind eye to these problems. Whether it is the parents themselves or the morah, rebbi, or hanhalah, saying that such behavior is normal, or taking the easy way out by ignoring the situation, is wrong and unacceptable.

Why are our beautiful children, who are going to yeshivos and Bais Yaakov, being subjected to this type of behavior? Why doesn’t every single school that teaches Torah in their daled amos, have a zero-tolerance policy for bullying?

A couple of years ago my young daughter was being bullied by a classmate. The well-meaning teacher spoke to the bully, but it hardly helped. The minute the teacher was out of sight, she was back to her old nasty tricks. However, the next year’s teacher immediately spoke to my daughter and advised her how to react to the bully the next time she started up. It worked wonders and from then on she never bothered my daughter again. But it took a really caring, responsible morah to step up to the plate and do something about it.

I’m sure that there are children who mature and do not continue hurting others as they did when they were young. However, there are probably children out there, unchecked and undisciplined, who grow up to abuse their own spouses and families. Hurting another person is never acceptable, no matter what age. I daven every night for all the bullied people in Klal Yisrael. And I hope that the bullied and the bullies all get the help that they need, to live happy, healthy, and productive lives.

A Yiddishe Mamme

Swiss Memories [Swiss Dreams / Issue 849]

I was fascinated by the article about the Institut Ascher by Riki Goldstein. As written in the article, the Yidden from Montreux, 20 minutes by train from Bex, benefited tremendously from the Aschers.

Beside using the mikveh, until the famous Reb Yitzchok Sternbuch built one in Montreux, we bought our chalav Yisrael milk from the Aschers. It came by train in a five-gallon container twice a week. I will never forget shlepping these heavy cans from the train station to our house as a young girl.

Another memory was my sister’s wedding in 1958. As a 13-year-old, they placed me in a side room with the kids of the institute. And I cried.

Thank you Riki Goldstein for a wonderful piece of history. I always enjoy your articles.

S. BeauLac

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 852)

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